Archive for May 14th, 2007

Control Freaks – A bad day for the BBC

“iPlayer is swarming with people,” one source, who asked to remain anonymous, told MediaGuardian. “They’re throwing more and more people at it – a classic mistake – while McKinsey suits run around carrying wads of paper and trying to look important. The BBC often tries to be a software development company, and fails every time.”

I was trying to think who could have said this… but then thinking back, it could have been anyone who’s even come close to the iPlayer project.

“As a result, the corporation is suffering a brain drain as bright technologists quit for fresh – and less frustrating – pastures.” The article goes on to say. Now modesty prevents me from describing myself as a ‘brain’, but I worked with some people at the BBC who were truly talented, most have now left, though a few are still there. However, it’s true that ‘less frustrating pastures’ is bang on the money. And I’ve experience off this. I was New Media’s picture editor, and as such was scheduled to work on the iPlayer. I left to go to Channel4 as…. picture editor for 4oD and Channel 4, a very similar job on paper. And yet having been here three months now, a world away in terms of attitude. Draw your own conclusions.

Not a great day for the Auntie in the elsewhere media.

“If you are interested in becoming a TV journalist, it is a fine example of how not to do it.”

Brilliant, professional understatement of the year. How to throw a total spanner in the much lauded objective nature of BBC reporting. The other clip doing the rounds is where the sunglasses wearing scientology guy gets mad and quotes the first amendment to the declaration of independence before storming off, only to be chased by Sweeney saying ” But I’m not a citizen of the United States, I’m a British Subject! And we have the right of free speech!”. It’s more a culture clash as much as anything, as I felt Louis Theroux fell into on the first of his new series, the most hated family in America. He actually got annoyed for the first time.

Still, New Media’s been on another recruitment drive, and what do they need? MORE MANAGEMENT! Appoint another ‘controller’, and then ‘controller in charge of overseeing program strategy’. I’m sure Erik’s a nice guy, but I’ve got to be skeptical of someone who’s past product successes are ‘MSTV, eHome and the Zune’. The Zune?! I know one person with one, and he only bought it to spite Jobs and cos he loves Bill. There’s been other internet noise about someone who’s so obviously a Microsoft man, from Glyn and then some wider thoughts by Cory.

Now, Channel 4 uses similar technology, indeed the same company to offer 4oD. However, we’re also offering free 7 day catch up and are thinking about the future from lessons learned with a live product. C4 isn’t funded by the license fee, despite still being a public service broadcaster (yeah I find that hard to believe looking at the schedule sometimes too, but then we show programmes like this) so at least the argument of ‘I’ve already paid for this so should be able to do what I want with it’ doesn’t apply. But being a mac user and open source fan I’d love to see the situation change.. and there’s people thinking about this right now, honestly. On the mac issue, as I’ve said before 4oD runs just fine on a mac so long as you have either Bootcamp or parallels installed along with a copy of windows on an intel mac – granted not your average user set up, but it will work.

More bad news comes in the official closing of Jam – the BBC’s learning website by Liz ‘the’ Cleaver as she’s known to all who’ve lost their jobs over the years. Well what a waste of money that was. iPlayer delays, Jam closures, more upper management… let’s face it BBC Future Media and Technology is punching above it’s weight while at the same time not delivering key products. Worse, it’s letting past products like H2G2 and others whither on the vine. Booooo.

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
May 2007